FF 13

FF 13Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing FF 13, originally released October 23rd, 2013.

Shelby: Uatu the Watcher refers to his home as his “inviolate domicile.” His digs on the blue side of the moon is a place wholly protected, whose inhabitants are guaranteed safe from harm. It could just be house rules, but I like to think there’s a little more magic behind it: something about the house or the Watcher’s presence that protects everyone. It’s a perfect setting for Scott Lang and the rest of the FF team to hide out and plot against Doom. Plus, space monkeys!

Remember last month’s mysterious fwasssshh that made everyone disappear without a trace? Well, Scott planned all that. Showing more foresight than he has this whole run, he loaded everyone up with Pym particles to shrink them down enough to hitch a ride with the Impossible Man. If you’re trying to teleport to someplace impossible to teleport to, travelling with the Impossible Man is obviously the only way to go. You see, Scott knew all about Alex and his parents, stuck in Doom’s clutches, so he got everyone out of harm’s way (and out from under Doom’s gaze) to regroup. He also has a serious talk with Alex about the responsibilities of being the big brother, so to speak. Scott himself comes to the conclusion that, while his own behavior after Cassie’s death and his feelings towards Doom are understandable and reasonable, he can’t act on them the way he wants in front of the kids because he has a responsibility towards them. In other news, the kids are playing in the backyard (on the moon) and end up getting in a fight with a bunch of different versions of Red Ghost: something about intangibility and mists of endless time loops. The specifics don’t bother me too much; as long as I get a multi-monkey battle on the moon out of the situation, I’m satisfied.

moon monkey fight!Leave it to Matt Fraction and the Allreds Lee, Michael, and Laura to give me a book of wacky shenanigans, nonsense comic book science, fourth wall destruction, and genuinely touching character growth. I brought up the Watcher’s inviolate domicile in the intro because that’s really what any parent wants to create for their children: a place of total safety. Unfortunately, I think that’s a task too impossible for even the Impossible Man. Scott has been struggling immensely with his daughter’s death (duh, because it’s terrible), and until this point the kids of the FF have been stressing him out immensely. Every one of them represented an opportunity for him to fail a child, and it’s hampered his role as leader. I think this whole plot to teleport to the moon is the first time we’ve really seen Scott plan ahead and take charge of a situation before it got out of hand. Scott is beginning to see what it really means to be responsible for these children; like Alex, he is bound to make poor decisions when under duress, and that’s acceptable behavior. What isn’t acceptable, though, is making those poor decisions in front of the kids, because they look up to him and he has a responsibility to give them something worth looking up to.

Despite all that serious stuff i just talked about, FF continues to show it doesn’t take itself TOO seriously. I mean, the whole monkey/Red Ghost/kid versions of Red Ghost’s enemies Moon Battle Royale is straight-up nonsense. There’s also the horrifying situation of riding in purple fibers, only to realize you’re actually riding with Impossible Man, and he’s only wearing one piece of clothing…

ants in my pants

Scott’s grand plan to escape from the evil clutches of Victor von Doom involves shrinking down small enough to hide on Impossible Man’s shorty shorts. It makes approximately as much sense as wearing snowshoes to bicycle on a trampoline, and I love it. The best little moment, though, comes at the expense of the fourth wall, when Caesar helpfully summarizes Scott’s explanation of what exactly happened when they teleported.

vidi tini impiAt first blush, this is just a cute little visual joke to cover up whatever science nonsense would be required to explain what had just happened. It saves time for the reader, and is goofy and fun. Not until my second or third read through did I try to read Scott’s explanation, and that’s when I saw that little, “Boy, this sort of stuff never happened when Matt was writing us!” in the lower right-hand corner of the image. As explained in the letter column, Fraction is turning writing duties on this title over to Lee Allred so Fraction can focus on the upcoming Inhumanity event. While it was Fraction who enamored me of this book in the first place, this little snippet of half-hidden dialogue convinces me I have nothing to worry about. Again, according to editor Tom Brevhoort in the letter column, Allred has both access to Fractions plots and plans for this book, as well as a ton of encouragement to make these issues his own. The fans are getting the continuation of the story and characters we’ve grown to love, and the creators are getting support from editorial to be creative and do their own thing. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the way DC editorial staff seems to run things. Patrick, what do you think about Lee Allred taking over writing on this book? Would you want to take a ride on Impossible Man’s booty shorts?
Patrick: Is the problem with riding his shorts that you’d be “close” to his Impossible Penis? At a microscopic level, I don’t think the Impossible Man’s genitalia would be any more horrifying than any other part of his body – or any other part of anything for that matter. I mean, you’d be so small that the relative distance between you and Impossible Cock would be greater than if you were just standing in a room with him.

Impossible Cock.

Shelby, I’m a lot less optimistic than you are about the future of this series. A whole bunch of pieces of this story straight-up didn’t work for me. My biggest gripe is the sheer volume of wackiness throughout. At the risk of being declared an enemy of fun (… again…), the Allreds’ take on this team feels like it’s going out of its way to be strange and hoping that strangeness was the appeal of the series all along. Quite the opposite, in fact: under Fraction’s pen, a band of misfits found their place together in a very weird world. Every seemingly random turn the universe made was in service of an emotional goal for the characters. Whereas this issue is like an exercise in “wouldn’t it be goofy if…?”

“Wouldn’t if be goofy if the Watcher had a wife? Oh! And wouldn’t it be goofy if they had to admit to a room full of children that they “date?” Oh! Oh! Oh! Wouldn’t it be extra goofy if he had to go to the bathroom on his big giant toilet?” For my money, making the character talk is goofy enough, and the rest is just piling on. By the end of the scene, Uatu and Ulana are sharing a Full House style touching-moment, and even Michael and Laura Allred’s stunning art can pull me up off the question: “WTF did I just read?”

Watcher and the Watchess

And then there’s Scott. Scott, Scott, Scott… He may chastise himself in the closing pages, but he is letting himself off light. I was extremely uncomfortable during the home-invasion portion of this issue. Let’s call a spade a spade, Scott threatens the murder Uatu and his family unless the FF can stay their house. He even ties them up! If we’re meant to treat these immeasurably powerful and detached creatures as human beings — and everything else that transpires in the issue suggests that we are — then Scott’s actions are criminal and horrific.

On a more personal level, I hate that he knew what Alex was going through. The Power parents were being held hostage by Dr. Doom, and poor Alex was forced to pursue John Storm’s life under the threat of their death. What the fuck was Alex supposed to do? That’s literally the plot of every season of 24 — Jack Bauer’s family (or friends or whatever) are compromised so he becomes the terrorist for a little while. And Bauer’s the best agent in an agency so good at dealing with terrorism that it doesn’t exist in real life. The idea that Scott Lang knew what Alex was being forced to do and didn’t reach out to him sooner is appalling, and it casts the character in an ugly light that no amount of recursive goofy-villain fightin’ is going to counter-act.

It’s fascinating to me that Shelby and I would have such opposite reactions to this same issue. I’m reminded to the conversation Drew and I had about issue 10 — the one with the guest appearance by Fraction, Allred and Tom Brevort. Drew saw the bumbling appearance of the writing staff as a pointless rebellion against non-existent philistine-editorial oppression, but I saw it as a nod to Marvel’s heyday, embracing all aspect of the Bronze age of comics, not just your favorite parts. Turns out, we were both right. This series has been pushing up against the boundaries of what’s too weird and what’s just too weird enough for a long time, and I can work with that, just so long as the people at the center of the issue remain recognizably human (or… you know what I mean). This issue comes dangerously close to erasing the humanity of Scott Lang for me, and without that anchor, I don’t know how long I’ll be willing to sail the Seas of Weird.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

14 comments on “FF 13

  1. I’d be more upset by Scott’s actions, Patrick, if it weren’t pretty obvious that Scott didn’t actually have an Ultimate Nullifier, and also that Uatu absolutely knew that. I mean, Scott fooled him for a minute, but Uatu figured it out pretty quicky, which is why Scott kept talking over him and convincing him that he had no choice–basically, Scott was giving Uatu an out, because he couldn’t be punished by the other Watchers for interfering and protecting the FF if they believed he was being held hostage. Remember, Uatu loves Earth and the Earthlings. He wants to help, but isn’t allowed. Scott’s fake threats was giving him an out, a way to help the FF out without getting into any trouble with his superiors.

    Pretty clever on Scott’s part, actually, though it does brush up against the idea that Scott has to make the rightchoices in front of the children. They don’t know it’s a fake, after all.

    • Also, I’m gonna tip my hand a little here: what is the ultimate nullifier? A person or a weapon? I thought it was a weapon (because Nova had his hands on it), but then someone in Young Avengers identified themselves as such. Does he/it have the power to really nullify everything? Or is it some kind of trump MacGuffin?

      • I only just realized that Uatu would be skeptical about Scott having the ultimate nullifier because he’s the only one with access to it (because Sam gave it to him in the pages of Nova). Scott basically walked in telling Uatu that he got his nose.

  2. I had an improv teacher who always use to use the example of “Unicorn explosion at the Blow Job Factory” as his example for random shit trying to be funny. Whenever someone would just keep adding extraneous information instead of playing the interesting stuff that was already in the scene, that would be his impression of what he was seeing. “You don’t wear snowshoes to go bicycling on a trampoline, do you?” strikes an uncomfortably similar tone.

    • I like how easily that line dismissed the notion that he would be wearing gloves while teleporting to an impossible place BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE ABSURD.

        • Just to be clear, the “jokey problem” is that Impossible Man isn’t wearing gloves while he’s TELEPORTING WITH HIS MIND. Like, why should he even have to justify not wearing gloves? It’s not like he’s assembling your sandwich or something. Anyway, the point is that he’s doing something impossible, so there are no rules for clothes, just like how there are no rules for wearing snowshoes while riding a bike on a trampoline.

  3. I am less upset about Scott knowing about Alex and his parents. I would imagine he didn’t know the entire time, only since his encounter with the Impossible Man two issues ago. And sure, it’s shitty that he used Alex, but he used EVERYBODY on the team, kid with kidnapped parents or otherwise. Their enemy is working with a man from the future who literally knows their every move before they make it; Scott had to play things close to the chest until he could get the kids to a place of safety away from Doom’s prying eyes.

    • Let’s not forget that Doom was watching them all like a hawk. Scott couldn’t put Alex’s mind at ease without tipping off Doom that he knew (and thus sentencing the Powers to death). This was the first chance he had to disappear the whole FF without Doom knowing what’s going on.

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